This past weekend I went and saw my first production of Thoroughly Modern Millie and it was also my first introduction to the McKinney Youth Theatre group...Well, I mean I knew they existed, but I hadn't seen any plays or musicals. Let me just tell you that these kids, ages 7 through high school, really blew me away. I know I'm a little bias because my friend (and new boss)'s daughter was the lead, but seriously the singing and acting skills of these kids was pretty amazing. And I'm sure that the other cast (remember in my initial post I mentioned that there were two main casts) was the same caliber of talent.
Set in the Roaring 20s, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a story about a girl name, you guessed it, Millie who leaves a small town in Kansas to find herself in New York City.
During the opening number Millie is transformed into a "Modern" with bobbed hair and a flapper dress.
At the end of this first number she is promptly robbed of all of her worldly belongings, including one of the shoes on her feet. In the midst of her crisis she meets Jimmy Smith who Millie dubs the "unwelcome wagon" for his complete lack of sympathy, though he does direct her to the Priscilla Hotel.
The Priscilla Hotel is run by Mrs. Meers, a peculiar woman with a fake Chinese accent.
And here comes poor Millie, who apparently has been out pounding the pavement looking for a job with no success. Just as Mrs. Meers is about to throw her out on her ear, enter Ms. Dorthy.
Ms. Dorthy has money to pay rent, a desire to see "how the other half lives," and no family. She and Millie make a deal to be roommates until Mrs. Meers hears that Dorthy is an orphan and then magically she grants Millie some extra time to pay her rent and finds a room, vacated by Mrs. Meers' last victim, for Dorthy to stay in.
Millie tells Dorthy of her plan to live as a modern woman and take control of her life by finding a job with a well-off, single boss that she can marry.
Millie finds a job and her future husband and to celebrate Millie takes all of the girls out for a night on the town where they run into Jimmy in a speakeasy. The place is raided and Millie and Jimmy get to spend the night in jail where Jimmy decides that he is falling, if rather reluctantly, for our Millie. And she's falling too.
Then, of course, there has to be a wrench thrown in the whole thing and Millie sees Jimmy coming out of Dorthy's room at the Hotel. Millie decides that is over Jimmy and she's going to stick with her original plan and marry her boss, who repeatedly calls her John, as in Johnny on the spot, but still John is not really the pet name girls dream of.
Dorthy stops by Millie's work and she and Trevor, Millie's boss, have an adorable duet where they sing and dance and gush all over each other with poor Millie studiously working in the background.
In the meantime, Mrs. Meers and her henchmen, Bun Foo and Ching Ho, are plotting to kidnap Ms. Dorthy. Bun Foo and Ching Ho are rather reluctant bad guys and are only doing it to make money so that they can bring their mother over from Hong Kong. And that reluctance grows as one of the henchmen has fallen in love with Dorthy. (Bun Foo and Ching Ho speak and even sing in Chinese through pretty much the whole musical. I don't speak Chinese, so these kids could have been totally butchering the language, but I was very impressed with the amount of Chinese that they memorized and the fluidity with which they spoke.)
Back to the story: Ching Ho, having fallen for Dorthy, vows to protect her when she is drugged by Mrs. Meers.
Millie, Jimmy, and Trevor figure out that Mrs. Meers is kidnapping tenants when Dorthy stands Trevor up for a date. They convince Ms. Flannery, the head stenographer at the company where Millie works, to pose an a "young" orphan in need of a place to stay in order to trap Mrs. Meers.
Dorthy shows up with her hero Ching Ho who she has fallen in love with.
Jimmy asks Millie to marry him and when she says yes he tells her that he and Dorthy are brother and sister and that their family is incredibly wealthy. They were sent out into the world with very little money to find people who truly loved them and not their family's money. And they both did just that.
Even Trevor finds someone as a Bun Foo reveals that she can speak English and is a stenographer! Now, this version of the musical differs a bit from the full Broadway production, but the bulk of the story is the same with a few more main characters, extra kidnapping close calls for Dorthy, and Bun Foo is a man who does end up as a stenographer at Trevor's company but not his love interest. I have to admit that I liked Bun Foo being a woman and ending up with Trevor.
*If I get to photograph another McKinney Youth Theatre production, and I hope I do, I am going to try to photograph a final, full production, dress rehearsal. In a rehearsal I'll be able to get up closer without blocking the view of any paying parent. I think proximity will help me even out the lighting, so that I don't have sections of the cast who are washed out. And I'm hoping that fixing the washed out issue will make correcting for the yellow tone of most all interior lights, including stage lights, a simpler process. I'm learning new things through trial and error...mostly error.